h2>Team Birthday

I’ve heard that other families celebrate birthdays with professionally wrapped gifts, Hallmark cards with inspiring and witty poetry, heartfelt renditions of “Happy Birthday to You,” followed by cakes with the recipient’s name on them in scripted frosting.

Our family events are a bit different in that our cards are often handmade, gifts are not always wrap-able and there’s usually some kind of contest involved in the festivities. For Jon’s birthday, for instance, we had a 50-foot-long inflatable obstacle course in the backyard.

“OK. Pair off. On three, you run, dive through those narrow portholes, scale the vertical slope, wiggle through the pylons and bounce out onto the lawn. First one to hit solid ground at the other end wins. Any questions?”

“How much longer before you get Ernie unstuck from the porthole?”

“Not long. Here comes the fire department now.”

On Patrick’s birthday the contest was to see who could jump out of Carl’s speeding pontoon boat at El Capitan State Park and look most like a Navy Seal on a secret mission.

“Try not to hit the motor and don’t worry about the sea lions. They hardly ever bite. Any questions?”

“How much longer do you think it’s going to take Ernie to swim out to the boat?”

“Not much longer, he’s dog paddling much faster now.”

Today was Christy’s birthday. She had already spent half an hour solving the riddles on her birthday card and following a series of hand-drawn maps to get her gift, when someone yelled: “What now?”

“Dance Off!” Christy yelled. “Two teams of three. Ten minutes to rehearse. Pick your music! Teams are scored on originality, synchronicity and rhythm.”

Ha. Finally, a birthday challenge I could easily win. I did a few pirouettes, a couple of high (well, semi-high) kicks, then I reached into the jar of team names, and drew one.

“Ozone!” I yelled. There were some loud cheers – mainly from the people who were on the other team.

A few minutes later, the Turbo team of Christy, Pat and Leila closed themselves in one bedroom to rehearse. And the Ozones – Stacey, Charlie and I – closed ourselves in the other bedroom.

“I’m thinking… Ina Gadda Da Vida.” I said to my partners.

“That’s like twenty minutes long,” Stacey said.

“Exactly. There won’t be any time for the other team. We win by default.”

I could taste victory – it kind of tasted like lasagna and red wine, which, oddly enough, is what I’d had for dinner.

“How about Boogie Shoes from Saturday Night Fever?” Stacey asked.

“I’m not sure I know how to move to that modern disco stuff.”

“Like this,” 5-year-old Charlie said.

He lay down on the floor and did a spin on his back, and then he jumped up, grabbed one leg and began hopping. Finally he grabbed his head with both hands and turned in a circle.

“You know,” Stacey said, “this just might work. It’s original and we can synchronize to it.

“What?” I said.

She grabbed my arms. Don’t put your hands over your ears during the head turn.”

“Oh, OK.”

A moment later, the announcement came. “Now,” Jon said, “live, on stage, in person… Ozone!”

We danced, we spun, we hopped and we went around in circles. It was a thing of beauty. “Umph. Sorry. Ah, watch out. Oooo, that’s gonna leave a mark.”

The applause was loud and raucous. Or maybe it just seemed louder because I no longer had my hands over my ears.

“And now,” Jon announced again. “Heerrreee’s Turbo!”

They too did a rendition of “Boogie Shoes,” but they made theirs less of a contact number. Still it was going to be close.

“Winner by a landslide… Turbo!”

Charlie and Stacey looked at me as if it were my fault…

“Dude, have you ever danced before? Anywhere?”

“He’s like the Three Stooges,” Charlie said.

“Oh yeah, well my birthday’s coming up soon, maybe I’ll have a Three Stooges contest. See who wins then, huh?” I smiled in a soon-to-be-victorious manner.

Everyone stared at me for a minute, then Christy said: “Nyuk , nyuk, nyuk.”

This was followed by a series of “Woob bub bub bub bub bubs” and “Nay ayaaayaaayaaayas” and a few eye-pokes, some hair pulling, and a bunch of “Hey Moe, Hey Moes!”

Yup. Another not-so-Hallmark moment coming right up.